Anchors Aweigh: A Seasonal Setting with a Nautical Theme

At this time of the year, the heavy heat hums with songs of cicadas and beckons you to spend the evening dining dockside. Even if you’re miles from the water, a seafaring scene filled with nautical niceties isn’t too far away.

A picture of a tablescape with a nautical theme that includes an anchor as a centerpiece.

Skipping rocks by the creek banks, lazing on the dock, casting lines in the river, strolling barefoot in the surf—yes, the best of Southern summers is found by the water. Whatever pool of refreshment beckons you back each hot July, you’ll appreciate the maritime marvel of this tablescape awash with the very best elements of ship and shore.

Let a formal white tablecloth form a neat and elegant base, then build this summertime setting around the traditional nautical colors of red and blue. A china pattern that mixes and matches oceanic motifs serves as the perfect anchor for the table, especially when set atop a net-inspired, sand-colored macramé place mat. Complement both the seafaring theme and color scheme with apple green napkins embroidered with an anchor and fastened with boating rope. For an extra delight, add tiny wooden oars, which can be left as is or inscribed and used as place cards.

Keep the glassware and silverware simple—anything more would throw the setting off balance—and instead of a traditional floral centerpiece, flood the table with your favorite aquatic accessories. Try fishing nets, an assortment of buoys and anchors, several varieties of ropes and ties, glass baubles, signal flags, and maybe even a seagull figurine. To create dimension and maximize visual impact, remember to select items that vary in height, shape, size, and texture. Place the pier-inspired treasures around a candle lantern, which shines from the centerpiece like a tabletop lighthouse. Such a shipshape setting will have you and your tablemates raising your glasses with toasts of “Summer Ahoy!”

A picture of a table setting with a nautical theme.

“The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” —Jacques Cousteau

For this maritime setting, hues of deep ocean blue and sandy taupe get a punch of color from accents in nautical red and vibrant green. The careful balance between fine linens and natural elements creates the feeling of a white-tablecloth dinner at the pier. Be sure to incorporate plenty of fishing nets; they lend whimsy and texture to the table and will certainly catch many compliments.

Bring variety to the table with plates bearing different oceanic motifs, and tie the look together by placing them on matching chargers in a coordinating pattern. The smallest details can elevate your setting from lovely to delightful. Look for these little oars, which are actually markers for potted plants, at craft or garden stores. Whether you’re a sailor at heart or a landlubber by nature, let your centerpiece collection reflect your own personality, and you’ll easily navigate your nautical tablescape to success.